The selection of which corporate candidate would serve their interests for the next four years has mercifully come to an end.
We, the working people of this country, are being told we must give up earned benefits in order to save us from the "fiscal cliff" by our corporate leader and his staff as well as a host of media pundits, corporate CEOs, right wing economists, and others.
We are told we are doomed if we are unwilling to contribute further to the downward spiral in our living standards already suffering under the weight of stagnant wages, the outsourcing of our jobs, the loss of 40% of our wealth, the theft of our pensions, the loss of services at the state and local levels, the deterioration of our schools, and the attendant social ills that accompany job loss, economic need, food insecurity , and hopelessness.
It appears we will be the victims of a lame duck deal that would be a dead duck if the will of the people were respected. The financial industry responsible for our economic collapse will walk free unless you believe the Dodd-Frank bill will bring justice and reform to a system that continues to operate in its own interests without respect for our people, our nation.
The Republicans are portrayed as making a grand concession as they now espouse support for "increased revenue", thereby violating the "pledge" they signed with Grover Norquist, an unelected corporate huckster, but are adamant that rates for the richest among us will not rise! Nor do they designate the sources of their increased revenue except to refer vaguely to rewriting the tax code, a proposition that should scare us all.
The President, always ready to give away things that have not been requested, has already signaled through David Plouffe and others, that he is ready and willing to put everything on the table. They talk about earned benefits as "entitlements" adopting the language of their alleged opposition.
The disgrace of the impending deal is that it will punish the victims again!
We did not start two unfunded wars, cut taxes on the wealthiest, or sell worthless scraps of paper that brought the banking system to the verge of collapse. We didn’t close over 50,000 factories, outsource millions of jobs which enormously reduced revenues that would have gone to the U. S. Treasury, state and local governments . We didn’t offshore billions of dollars to avoid paying taxes.
We bailed them out. We bailed out the auto industry but the deal worked out by our leaders saw 80,000 of our jobs disappear, our pensioners skewered, and a two tiered wage scale introduced. The bank bailout had no such strings attached. Their dishonesty has been rewarded, their crimes ignored. Our sons and daughters fought their wars. Many came home with injuries, both mental and physical, that has required the intense care of family members. Others live on the streets.
Many homeowners lost their homes and efforts to oust others continue.
Barack Obama campaigned on protecting the middle class but has been as hazy as his opponents in proposing how he will protect us, other than extending the tax benefit that will do nothing to help us regain ground we have lost. He has not proposed a plan to rebuild our communities, has not included a major plan to rebuild the infrastructure and put people to work, and has not offered a map to return industry to our shores.
In fact, the only industry they seem to want to grow is the private prison industry which seems to imply it is okay to put people in jail but not okay to put them to work as we continue to cut and contract out good paying jobs. And he certainly has not proposed anything remotely resembling a mechanism which would reverse the flow of capital to those he purports to want to protect.
One cannot look at the recent election results without recognizing the contribution of labor to the Obama victory in the all important Midwest states. They provided the manpower and the money.
And while I hesitate being critical of labor because of their historic contributions to the welfare of working people, as well as their potential to provide leadership and to be a vehicle for meaningful change, their uncritical support for candidates that have no commitment to labor interests, aspirations, or values is not a winning strategy.
Despite the fact that this administration signaled the charge against public employee unions with the personnel they appointed to cabinet and staff positions, labor exacted no promises of change. They are not responsible for the two party system, and are no less a victim than the rest of us, but their uncritical embrace and support for it has failed miserably to halt or reverse the downward spiral we’ve been caught in.
There needs to be a move away from the two party system. Support for drone war that only drives the cycle of hatred and aggression. Labor must embrace their brothers and sisters in the international community and insist that attacks on labor and their leaders in other countries not be tolerated.
They need to adopt a long term strategy which ensures we will not be used as soldiers to fight their wars and fund the rich instead of supporting short range goals that may provide a few jobs at the expense of the health of our communities and of the planet.
I fear that without a fundamental change and a more aggressive stance toward a White House full of Wall Street apologists, labor will continue to hemorrhage members and we will all suffer. An injury to one is still an injury to all.
And finally, we all need to look around and recognize that most of us share the goals of peace, brotherhood, economic and social justice and that the corporate-dominated two-party system has interests inimical to our own.
Frank Hawkins is a long-time political and union activist. He is past President of an AFGE local at a Veteran’s Administration hospital
December 14, 2012